Inside Rihanna's Rise as a Fashion Mogul and Philanthropist
By Desiree Murphy
Rihanna is proving to the world that she can conquer anything.
While fans know her best as the singer behind hits like "Umbrella," "Work," and "We Found Love," the 32-year-old Barbados native has also established herself as a fashion icon, highly successful businesswoman and philanthropist with her sights set high on "trying to save the world" in recent years.
Rihanna's booked and busy these days, and admits that these behind-the-scenes business moves have temporarily given music a backseat. She hasn't released a new album since 2016's Anti, but that's because she knows exactly where her priorities lie. And at a moment in time where raising awareness on real-world issues could not be more important to the superstar, Rihanna hopes her "Navy" will understand, and follow her along on the journey.
"I am always working on music, and when I'm ready to put it out, in the way that I feel fit, it's going to come out and you're not going to be disappointed," Rihanna assured fans in an exclusive interview with ET this month. "When it happens, it's going to be worth it. I'm not just going to put it out just because people are waiting. It's taken this long, I'm going to make it worth it."
For now, Rihanna is focused on more important projects, like doing everything in her power to assist in relief for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In March, the Clara Lionel Foundation she founded in 2012 (named in honor of her grandparents, Clara and Lionel Braithwaite) donated $5 million to the COVID-19 rapid response efforts in the United States and across the globe. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also gave Rihanna a shout-out via Twitter at the time, writing, "I want to thank @rihanna and the Rihanna Foundation for donating Personal Protective Equipment to New York State. We're so appreciative of your help and that of so many others who have stepped up."
Less than a month later, Rihanna joined forces with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to co-fund a $4.2 million grant for The Mayor's Fund Los Angeles. The grant will be used to help victims of domestic violence amid the city's ongoing "Safer at Home" order.
Philanthropy aside, Rihanna has also become a force of nature within the beauty and fashion industry. In 2017, when Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty, she changed the beauty game forever by debuting an unprecedented foundation line that featured 40 foundation shades for people of all color. The line was expanded to 50 foundation shades and 50 concealer colors by 2019.
"Being inclusive for me always came second nature," Rihanna explained to ET. "I see how women become so emotionally invested and they feel represented. They feel like they can see themselves on the shelves and in the campaigns."
And now, with the inclusive makeup collection expanding into skincare this year, it's not just the women Rihanna is targeting. She wanted to make sure her Fenty Skin line not only worked for all skin tones and types, but that it was also gender-neutral, so she called up friends like A$AP Rocky and Lil Nas X to star in the campaign shoot.
"I wanted men to be represented because this skincare line is gender-neutral," Rihanna told ET. "I want it to be for everyone, so you don't have men scared to use skincare. They think it's a feminine thing, they think it's just for girls, and I don't like that idea. We all have skin, we all wear skin, so I knew we needed that male representation in the campaign."
Plus, the beauty guru is keeping it simple and affordable for consumers. Rihanna launched the line earlier this month with a basic three-step product system: Total Cleans'r Remove-It-All Cleanser ($25), Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner-Serum ($28) and Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen ($35).
"This is a newborn baby in the skincare industry, so I am going to approach it with a new eye, my eye. But I also want these things to be different from everything that is on the market," the "Diamonds" singer shared with ET. "I want it to be simple, and I want it to be accessible."
"It's instilled with a high level of ingredients that some of these other brands use but are so expensive. I realized you can make the best product and it does not have to be inaccessible," she continued. "And to start off with one million things, it kind of confuses the consumer. Give them what they need first, three simple steps, and from there, you take them on a journey throughout the skincare [line]."
Rihanna credits her mother, Monica, as the inspiration behind the new skincare line, as well as the reason for her love of all things beauty. She told ET, "Growing up in my household, I have always looked up to my mom as my beauty inspiration. I wanted to do everything that she did."
"She knew everything about perfume, skincare, and makeup," she added, in an interview with Harper's Bazaar. "She never let me wear makeup, but I was secretly fascinated. So when she'd leave home, I would play around with hers."
Despite eventually becoming a pop star, Rihanna learned in her teen years that everyone, no matter who you are, is prone to acne. "When I was just starting my career as a teenager, I was going through these breakouts and I went to what I thought was the best of the best doctors to take care of my skin," she admitted to ET. "[The prescribed products] ended up being too harsh for my skin. It was not for my skin type or my skin tone, it bleached me, it blocked my skin up in patches and that took years to even get back."
"There's so many different levels of the journey that it is complicated, but I had to take all of that into account when I was making this line," she added. "Because I really wanted everyone to be a part of it and not feel like, 'Hmm, it might not work for me.'"
Needless to say, Rihanna is just getting started and we can't wait to see what she does next. As Stella McCartney so perfectly put it for TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World issue in 2012, "Rihanna's one of the coolest, hottest, most talented, most liked, most listened to, most followed, most impressive artists at work today, but she does it in her own stride."
"She works hard, very hard," McCartney added. "She gives to her fans, friends and foundation. Not just herself, but her energy and spirit."